The Legislative Years: 1973-1974
During the 63rd Legislature, Dr. Weddington served on the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Insurance Committee. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, she served as Chairperson of the Special Committee on State Employment. Additionally, she was appointed by the Speaker to the Special House Rules Revision Committee. Dr. Weddington sponsored several major pieces of legislation during this time, all of which were passed by the legislature. The Texas Kidney Health Care Act provided care for all Texans suffering from kidney failure without pauperizing the patient. House Bill 950 made it unlawful to deny credit or loans on the basis of sex. And House Bill 1326|Senate Bill 274 authorized the School Land Board to control state-owned submerged land and to monitor use of such land for compliance with environmental safeguards.
Other major legislation was co-sponsored by Dr. Weddington and each of these were passed by the Legislature. House Bill 1512 (historical preservation) restricted alteration or demolishment of any structure or site bearing a State of Texas historical medallion without 60 days notice for historical recording, observation, and possible salvation. House Bill 787 ("kindergarten bill") permitted all children five years of age to attend public kindergartens. Dr. Weddington also served on the Statewide Amendment 7 Committee. This amendment to the Texas Constitution extended the Veterans Land Program administered by the General Land Office. The Veterans Land Program, exhausted of funds, was revived by allowing the General Land Office to issue a new series of bonds to meet the increased demand for participation in the land program by returning veterans. During 1973, in addition to continuing her private law practice, Dr. Weddington was active in many community programs. She was a member of the Legislative Committee of the Organization of Women Legislators. Appointed by the ABA President to the Joint Conference of Representatives of the American Medical Association and American Bar Association, she began an eight-year commitment to this organization. She served as a board member of Zero Population Growth (ZPG), a national non-profit organization working to slow population growth and achieve a sustainable balance between the Earth's people and its resources, and she continued this association for the next eleven years.
Dr. Weddington was the Honorary Chair for the House of Representatives for Muscular Dystrophy. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), later known as the National Abortion Rights Action League, then the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. She maintained ties with this organization from 1973 to 1979 and from 1981 to 1984.
The year of 1973 was full of honors and awards for Dr. Weddington. On January 15, she received word that she was the winning attorney in the case Roe v. Wade, which she successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall of 1972. The Supreme Court agreed that the Texas abortion laws violated a woman's constitutional right to privacy, thereby overturning not only the abortion laws of Texas, but also those of 44 other states.
Named an "Outstanding Legislator" by the Texas Student Association, she was also named in Esquire magazine's story "302 Women Who Are Cute When They're Mad; the Definitive Women's Lib Establishment Chart" as being a politician in the "hot center" of the women's liberation movement. Dr. Weddington was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Austin Association for Retarded Children for her "Dedication and Legislative Interest in the Welfare of the Developmentally Disabled", and was presented with a Certificate of Service from The International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi, Theta Omega Chapter. She was honored both by the State Bar of Texas for her work on behalf of Bar legislation during the 63rd Legislature, including subcommittee work on modernization of the 117-year-old penal code, and with the Banner Award by Women in Communications International, which gave Sarah Weddington the Banner Award.
The first annual Susan B. Anthony Award for outstanding achievement in the cause of women's rights was presented to Sarah by the Austin chapter of the National Organization for Women. She was also given the first annual Woman of the Year Award by the Texas Women's Political Caucus "in appreciation for her dedicated efforts in furthering women's rights and her outstanding contributions to all people who cherish personal freedom."
During 1974, Dr. Weddington continued to operate a private law practice and was a member of the Texas Family Law Council. She also continued as a member of the Joint Conference of Representatives of the American Medical Association and American Bar Association. She chaired the State Bar of Texas Increasing Lawyer Participation Committee, which was to increase participation of minorities and women, and was a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention and a member of its Legislative Committee. 1974 was also a year of continued honors and awards. Dr. Weddington was named an Outstanding Young Woman of America by the Outstanding Young Women of America, Inc. "in recognition of outstanding ability, accomplishments, and service to the community." She was also named "Outstanding Woman of Austin" by the Austin American-Statesman. The Austin Personnel Association recognized her for advancement of the profession of Personnel Management." She was included in Personalities of the South and named Woman of the Year by the Austin Business & Professional Women.
She received a certificate from the YWCA of Houston as "one of the first women legislators to participate in the framing of a constitution for the State of Texas," and a Meritorious Service Citation from the Austin Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. for "distinguished service for Humanity and the State of Texas in the area of Public Service." In that same year, Sarah Weddington was made an Honorary Camp Fire Girl by the Balcones Council of Camp Fire Girls, Inc., and served as an Honorary Coordinator of the Bicentennial Celebration for the Lone Star Girl Scout Council.